Ila Nagar

Ila Nagar

Ila Nagar

Associate Professor


320 Hagerty Hall
1775 College Rd.
Columbus, OH

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Areas of Expertise

  • Sociolinguistics, ethnography, language variation and change
  • Language, gender, and sexuality
  • South Asia Studies and Hindi pedagogy


  • PhD in Linguistics, The Ohio State University
  • MA in Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • BA in Linguistics, Aligarh Muslim University

I am a sociolinguist and I work on language, sexuality, power, and meaning. My current project examines how citizenship in modern democracies relies on defining parts of the population in ways that undervalue their place in society. The case in point is Muslims, women, and LGBTQ+ communities in modern day India. Through an analysis of legal documents and media reports, I show that language plays a critical, albeit overlooked, role in further marginalizing communities that are historically underprivileged.  Matters of representation and social hierarchies have become increasingly important as the prosperity of the Indian middle class cloaks the economic and educational stratification more broadly, and as political and popular discourses champion social equality while their language use and portrayals of marginal groups actually reinforce such groups’ marginalization.

My monograph Being Janana: Language and Sexuality in Contemporary India, which was published in 2019, examines how jananas, who are men who desire men but can have heteronormatively masculine positions in society, make meaning of the marginalization of their sexuality and desire. I started fieldwork with members of the janana community in 2003 and my engagement with the community lasted till 2019. My core argument in Being Janana is that in the janana community, a community that comes together around sexuality and desire, the priorities of individual are reinforced by rejecting desire and embracing normative masculinity. I use language as a means of inquiry into how members of the janana community navigate identity. I also present linguistic analysis to demonstrate the way members of the janana community negotiate meaning. Most of my recent work focuses on the relationship between language, gender, and sexuality; particularly how people negotiate gender and sexual identity through language. My publications describe the intersection of sexuality, language use, and class in the performance of gender in the lives of a community of male sex workers in India. I also examine the nexus of language, gender and sexuality in the portrayal of sexual violence against women in Indian media. My discussion of sexuality in India and more broadly in South Asia is built on understanding the connections between the local context of a mid-sized Indian city and more global contexts like legal implications of sexual conduct.